Injury puts Liriano deal on hold


BRADENTON, Fla. — The Pirates’ plans to sign free-agent left-hander Francisco Liriano are on hold after the pitcher injured his right (non-throwing) arm sometime around Christmas. Citing medical privacy laws, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington declined to reveal either the nature or extent of Liriano’s injury. “We continue to have dialogue with Francisco’s (agent), but there is nothing to announce at this time,” Huntington said.

On Dec. 21, the Pirates and Liriano were close to finalizing a two-year, $12.75 million contract. The deal was pending the completion of a physical exam. Liriano, 29, pitched last year for the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox. He has a fastball that touches 95 mph, but also has put up a plus-5.00 ERA and averaged five walks per nine innings each of the past two seasons.

The Pirates wanted Liriano to fill the No. 3 spot in their starting rotation, behind veterans A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez. Righty James McDonald, who was erratic last year, would have gone into the No. 4 slot, with one of two rookies – Kyle McPherson or Jeff Locke — in the final spot. Right-hander Charlie Morton is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected back until mid-season at the earliest. Management would prefer to have top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole begin the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. If the club’s interest in Liriano continues to ebb, Huntington will look at other free-agent and trade options for starter candidates. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our club,” Huntington said. “But it there is not an acceptable upgrade out there, we’re ready to go forward with this group.”